Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Monday through Sunday covering the most recent Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision.
This week’s contributors are Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] giving us the MVP of the week.
This week was the debut of the brand-new prime-time show AEW Collision, with it's fantastically apt theme: Sir Elton John's "Saturday Night's All Right (For Fighting)". Contributor Sergei wrote up an entire piece on his hopes for Collision, here.
But with the return from injury of the most controversial performer in AEW, we've chosen a different Elton song for the theme of this week's Roundtable. And if you're not familiar with the song the title might seem to be taking the anti-Punk side, but consider the lyrics:
...the bitch is back
Stone-cold sober, as a matter of fact
I can bitch, I can bitch, 'cause I'm better than you...
Pretty apt, we think, regardless of which side one may be on...
Match of the Week: Gareth.
Adam Cole vs. MJF
Once again AEW gives me an impossible task in selecting ‘Match of the Week’. Two great trios matches to main event Dynamite and Rampage, a fantastic match in Andrade’s return against Buddy Matthews as well as a ripper between Konosuke Takeshita and Bandido.
But I have to give it to Adam Cole taking on AEW World Champion MJF in an eliminator match. A match which allows Adam Cole to take the first proper step on his journey to becoming world champ one day.
MJF had every heel-ish trick up his sleeve in this match, but everything backfired in a lovely turn of events which made you think Adam Cole would get the victory. An attempt to do THE Eddie Guerrero spot followed by referee Bryce Remsburg catching MJF in the act of using his diamond ring were both brilliant.
Some great selling on the part of both wrestlers also made you question who would get the victory. That said it was very clear that, despite the match ending as a time-limit draw, with the bell ringing just as it seemed Cole had the match won, Adam Cole was the better man on the night. Just a second away from victory.
This allows us to think about when they might meet again in the future. Is Adam Cole the man to dethrone MJF? He certainly seems a top candidate. And this match was an excellent advert for that future event because whilst it was fantastic, you certainly felt they had another level they could go to.
Even so they told a great story of Cole just finishing short and MJF escaping. With a lot of good spots and wrestling, this match provided catharsis, comedy and most importantly of all, a match result that felt like it truly mattered.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Punk Takes Controversial Stand
I've never been a fan of worked shoots. A lot of people seem to like the feeling of "anything can happen" when someone says something that seems to break the fourth wall. But in my opinion, that subversive thrill isn't worth the price paid in incoherence and broken illusion.
I gave Hangman promo of the week for his "worker's rights" exchange with Punk from the 5/25 Dynamite, because I still trusted that there was a plan to make it all work AS a fictional story. I gave Punk promo of the Week for his return promo from the 8/17 Dynamite, even though by then I was resigned that his childish and petty insults back at Hangman wouldn't lead anywhere within the realm of kayfabe. I justified it as being the most important promo of the week, even if not good by my preferences.
And it has proven to be so: indirectly it's led to all of this… two competing shows with new opportunities for competitors like Miro, Thunder Rosa, and Andrade who had been pushed aside on Dynamite.
Punk's latest petty rant is also divisive: some love it, some hate it. But will it be important? I genuinely hope not: that rather this is one last blast of spite to acknowledge the elephant in the room and henceforth move past it and get back to the real job of telling fictional stories leading to matches.
But that wasn't the only promo CM Punk cut Saturday night, and the other I believe genuinely was both important AND excellent!
Punk pulled a kid from the crowd with a sign saying "Support LGBTQ+ Youth" and gave an impassioned speech about supporting trans youth, explaining why he supports them in this current environment of persecution in a way that makes common cause between trans youth and anybody who ever felt like an outside or marginalized, like Punk had when he was a kid. I think this line of argument is a great way to convince people who might be on the fence why, yes, you too should be an ally!
Now, admittedly, this promo isn't about what I said before: getting back to the fictional stories and feuds. But it doesn't contradict those, either. Even if Punk is soon to turn villain, he can be a villain who supports trans youth, just like MJF is a villain who feels strongly about opposing antisemitism. And some things are more important than our latest grappling stories, anyhow!
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
A Harrowing Draw
It was an absolutely STACKED week of AEW television, leaving me conflicted about what to select for my story-beat. However, given how I was semi-critical of the MJF/Adam Cole promo segment last week, I want to give them their dues for the excellent follow-up.
The AEW World Championship eliminator match opened Dynamite and was very worthy of the match of the week award (despite some lobbying in our group chat for the Aubrey Edwards Trios match on Rampage). The crowd was molten for the two men from the jump, which they leveraged to keep the crowd invested for the full 30 minutes. This made it particularly crushing when the time limit expired before the referee was able to complete the conclusive fall for Adam Cole.
I think this finish shows the effectiveness of time limits in wrestling storytelling. While its use in AEW has come under some scrutiny, likely because many western fans were so unfamiliar with it, I truly believe this finish was fantastic and can be used to fuel both characters.
Adam Cole knows he can beat the champion, so he will be even more desperate to work his way back up and earn a shot at the title. MJF will likely brush off the match, claiming that he was about to kick-out and that Cole, much like everyone else in AEW, is not on his level. However, this match revealed the true insecurity at the heart of MJF's character. He knows deep down that he was about to lose, so he will do anything to avoid a championship rematch to ensure he keeps a tight grasp of his Triple B.
What further complicates Cole's desire to get a championship match is how the title picture has evolved in the short time after his loss. Firstly, an AEW World Championship match was announced for Forbidden Door (despite Max's many protests), with MJF defending against NJPW legend Hiroshi Tanahashi. Secondly, there is the return of a certain ex-AEW World Champion on the debut episode of Saturday Night COLLISION. The universally beloved CM Punk rightly pointed out that he was never defeated for the title, even carrying around his championship in a red sack. At least I think it was his title, it could be Erick Rowan's spider for all we know (@David Zaslav, this is the true one billion dollar idea). He then called out MJF, seemingly placing himself in contention for the belt and leaving Cole's status in the world championship picture even more uncertain.
This was a great piece of business. A fantastic in-ring match that was also used to further the story between these two characters in an interesting way that has me invested in what happens next. There's really not much more you can ask for.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Eddie is Back
While people were interested in the events of Saturday (My biggest moment of interest in that night was that apparently David Zaslav thinks that CM Punk's name is Bill) it's been forgotten how great that last 5 minutes of Dynamite was. It felt like the first couple of months of Dynamite like that night when The Elite and the Inner Circle battled as the credits appeared, such chaos that felt like I was watching Monday Nitro when I was a kid when it was good. It felt like we had our Dynamite back.
The enemies of Kenny Omega and The Elite (those who are working Wednesdays) faced off with the foursome and especially the third ever AEW World Champion with Will Ospreay coming through the Forbidden Door to take out Omega to the joy of Bryan Danielson and Don Callis. But it was an event in between Kenny finally getting his hands on Konosuke Takeshita and Will Ospreay's appearance that brought a long running story in the history of this sport and of AEW to the forefront.
Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castagnoli have had a rivalry that has gone on for over a decade (check out Joseph Monticello's video on YouTube about their beef in Chikara) and with their feud ongoing in Ring of Honor, the first chance Eddie got post hernia surgery to get his hands on his bitter rival saw him in the nation's capital and saw Kingston run in to get him some Claudio.
One problem. Eddie's best friend is also in the same team as Claudio. Jon Moxley knows of Eddie's hatred of Claudio. He was probably not surprised that Eddie wanted to fight Claudio but Eddie was doing this on Blackpool Combat Club time. While Mox’s and Eddie's face to face told us of their past, The Young Bucks appearance also reminded us of The Elite and Kingston's time in opposite corners.
Eddie Kingston's trust issues have been one of the low key long term stories that have been part of AEW. He was always right about Claudio, some might say he had a point about CM Punk, those trust issues ended up causing his friendship with Ortiz to explode at the smallest comment from Malakai Black but Jon Moxley is the one constant binding relationship in Eddie's life in AEW (even his Ruby has turned on the AEW locker room) after they've bled together. Eddie has a choice to make by the looks of it. His best friend even if Jon is loyal to Claudio or a unit that he fought against in Daily's Place sans one member who he has a lot in common with even if he doesn't want to admit it.
The main premise of The Elite vs Blackpool Combat Club in the first few months of the feud was a battle for the philosophy of AEW and maybe pro wrestling in general but could it actually be about the soul of one particular AEW roster member?
MVP of the Week: Joe.
verb: needle; 3rd person present: needles; past tense: needled; past participle: needled; gerund or present participle: needling
prick or pierce (something) with or as if with a needle.
"dust needled his eyes"
provoke or annoy (someone) by continual criticism or questioning.
"I just said that!"
There are many wrestling fans that are upset that CM Punk is back. I can understand that. Many would argue that Punk represents a rougher, ruder, more cynical spirit than The Elite do. By reliable accounts and reports he seems to have changed the mood backstage & his All Out press conference was the catalyst for Brawl Out. You get the feeling that AEW was a more happy and harmonious place before Furious Phil came along.
There are many wrestling fans that are upset that CM Punk is the star of a new brand. AEW is OVERstuffed with talent sitting backstage or wrestling (storyline) meaningless matches on Rampage & ROH because there’s no room in primetime, and yet it feels like Tony Khan & AEW are bending over backwards for Punk & rewarding him for bad behavior. Punk is not accepting that reward with humility, either. As Twitter user @Julian_Burrell pointed out:
So it is true that AEW is OVERstuffed with talent, likely lower maintenance & better team player talent, none of those talents are OVER to the level of Punk. Hopefully, AEW can use his star power to create new stars. We already know it will be a place for “displaced” performers like Andrade, Miro, and Thunder Rosa to get second chances, and stop & start projects like Team Taz (Ricky Starks & Powerhouse Hobbs) to get a longer run. This land of new opportunities seems mostly made possible by Punk on the business funding.
There are many wrestling fans that are happy that CM Punk is back. Many would argue he represents a rawer, realer, more grown up spirit than The Elite do. Ibou from WrestlePurists aka @BackupHangman on Twitter believes that:
There are many wrestling fans who are excited about this new AEW brand. The lads from The Alleged Wrestling Podcast tweeted:
There are VERY FEW wrestling fans who don’t care about CM Punk coming back, and have no opinion about him headlining his own new show. In a world of hyper short attention spans, and very divided interests and allegiances, a man who can generate this much attention & interest is incredibly valuable.
...and it's worth noting, it did so in a day.!
CM Punk likes to needle, and he moves the needle. That is why CM Punk is this week’s Most Valuable Player in AEW.